Battle of Trafalgar Union Jack goes up for auction

The Levaithan flag.
The Levaithan flag.

An ultra-rare Union Jack believed have been flown at the Battle of Trafalgar is to go up for auction next year.

Expected to reach at least £50,000, the flag is one of only three to have survived. It's being sold by Arthur Cory, 49, who says it's spent years rolled up in a cupboard at his home, Penllyn Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan.

It's a bit moth-eaten, as well as having a number of holes made by wooden splinters and musket balls.

The flag was flown from HMS Leviathan during the famous 1805 battle, and was afterwards taken down and kept by its captain, Sir William Bayntun.

It then passed through the hands of the Duke of Clarence - who later became King William IV - before being won by one of Mr Cory's ancestors in a bet. He's now selling it to pay for the castle's leaky roof to be fixed; it will be auctioned next March by Holt's auctioneers in Norfolk.

The flags, flown to help the British fleet identify one another, are now extremely rare. One of the other two to fly during the battle was on the HMS Minotaur; it's now held by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, where it recently went on display.

The other, which flew on HMS Spartiate, sold for £320,000 in 2009 - despite a pre-sale estimate of just £10,000. Even some fragments from Nelson's Victory went for $42,000 this summer.


Indeed, the £50,000 estimate for the Leviathan flag may be well short of the mark. Trafalgar memorabilia goes for very high prices: last year, Paul Fraser Collectibles revealed that Admiral Lord Nelson's signature was valued at £10,500, making it the third most expensive in the world.

There is, though, a surprising amount of Nelson memorabilia available through auction every year. Last month, for example, a silver plate given to Nelson after his victory at the Battle of Copenhagen was sold for £10,000.

Other items to have gone under the hammer in recent months include a letter in which Nelson banned his wife from visiting him while he was stationed abroad, enabling him to carry on his affair with Emma Hamilton.

And in another recently-auctioned letter, Nelson complains that he can't locate the French fleet.

Nelson's Column: Admiral Gets New Hat
Nelson's Column: Admiral Gets New Hat